Finding a better way to get positive behaviors by acknowledging the real reasons for them. "It Was Never Your Fault"

These are some of the most powerful words I use in coaching parents.  "It was never your fault," carries a healing message to children that releases them from undeserved guilt.  When children are free of guilt, they're learning, listening, and functioning well.  

When parents are also freed from guilt, they, too, learn, listen and function well. That's my aim, to help you, as a parent release guilt that you never deserved.  

"How does that work?" you might wonder.  I offer parents forgiveness because I truly believe you/they have always been doing what you knew how to do. When my kids were young, I made a lot of mistakes. If I'd had a parent coach back then, I would have loved guidance and forgiveness from a trusted professional. I think it would have made all the difference. Now that that ship has sailed, I feel privileged to be able to lead parents through Present Moment Parenting in a way I never was. I feel honored to say, "You did your best. It was never your fault when things didn't go well."  

And for kids, it's the same. There's not a child in the world who doesn't want to be in close connection with their parents. After all, parents are their survival, so it makes sense that they would strive to maintain the bond. But their emotional state, undeveloped as it is, prevents them from making the bond stronger. They falter, they have meltdowns, they make their parents feel frustrated and angry. 

As the adults, it's our job to realize they never intended this disruption in the closeness with us. They just lacked the brain development to control their outbursts, their refusals, and their nasty words. Once we realize that undeveloped brains is the issue, and not bratty, controlling, impossible kid, we're miles ahead of the game of healing the break between ourselves and our children.  

So, what's the first step? Changing our automatic reaction to defiance from one of upset and consequences to one of understanding, calm, and listening to the underlying emotion. When we can do that, our kids feel seen, heard, felt, safe. And from there, we can gain their cooperation.  

Recently I heard a quote from a parent that went: "Once I dropped the parent role and focused on strengthening our relationship, everything got better."  That to me, is gold.  

What do kids need? A loving, accepting, guiding presence. This enables them to learn, follow, and emulate their parents' behavior, especially forgiveness.  

If you'd like more information on how parent coaching works, click here. I'd love to help you form that strong, healing bond with your children that reduces defiance, strengthens your relationship, and brings peace to your home. 

To read or listen to my book, click here: Present Moment Parenting; The Guide to a Peaceful Life with Your Intense Child

Words I Really Don't Like

Posted: February 3, 2023

Do you have words that kids say that you really don't like? Like "No way?" and "You can't make me?" and "Whatever"?

I have some, too, that come from adults and that might surprise you. "Won't" "Wants to ..." and "Get my child to ..."

Let me explain. 

What's so bad about saying, "Won't?" Because we understand that kids need to be in the light of their parents' love, and it's hardly ever that they simply "won't" do something.  All behavior is communication and a readable signal. So, if we read the signal and act on it, we're making great strides in strengthening the parent-child relationship. This is the key to helping the child feel safe, and the natural consequence of that safety is collaboration with you (See statement above: kids want to live in the light of their parents' love -  their cooperation makes that light shine.)  What's the child signaling when he or she won't do what needs to happen? It could be a number of things that you can help to resolve. 

Here are some of them:

1. I'm not at that stage of development yet to take on the task you asked me to do.  See for a resource on child development at each stage.
2. I've had trauma, so in this area I'm not at the stage of development that others my age might be. Trauma interrupted my intellectual or emotional steps because my whole body was in survival mode. (If your child consistently acts younger than his or her age, adjust your expectations to that younger age until he or she catches up.)
3. I have ADHD, which interferes with my understanding of what exactly you expect. (Please note that 'auditorily' is how most expectations are delivered and most kids with ADHD don't store, interpret and retrieve the sounds of your voice as readily as kids without ADHD. Visuals and modeling the task can really help.)
4. I would like to do what you ask, but I'm hungry/exhausted/distracted by big emotion, and it's just not feasible right now. (Letting your child off the hook in these situations is not failed parenting. It's compassionate parenting.)
5. I learned how to do the task you want me to do, but I'm a kid and not a machine. Because I know how to do it, that doesn't mean I do it every single time. (Being stringent on task completion is only going to serve as a flashpoint for resistance, so it's OK to let go, do the task yourself, predict that the child will do it next time, and give heartfelt appreciation when it happens.)

"He 'wants to' be a pain in everyone's neck."  "She 'wants to' defy us at every turn."  In the case of gender-questioning or gender diverse kids, "She 'wants to' be a boy." In the case of gay kids, "He 'wants to' be attracted to other boys." 

A child almost never wants to be separated emotionally from his/her/their parents.  You are, after all, their survival, so it threatens their safety to be at odds with you. There's always an underlying reason for what appears as willful acts or statements of "disrespect." 

1. Being a 'pain in everyone's neck' is often the result of a lack of self-esteem that comes from being overly corrected. The amygdala (the threat alarm in the brain) has gotten a lot of reaction to being a pain, so it says to the child's body, outside of the child's awareness, "Your parents, upon whom you are dependent for survival, saw you just then! You're going to survive! Do that again!" The cycle of being a pain just got a huge boost from a part of the brain the child is following, but of which he or she is totally unaware. (To switch "pain" behavior to "loving/cooperative behavior, give a lot of attention to what you want with: "When you ... I feel ... because ... " around all the good things he/she/they do.) 
2. Defiance, same as above. 
3. Gender questioning or diverse kids are not choosing to be the opposite of their gender assigned at birth. Their brains and bodies just don't match. So they don't "want to" be other than the gender that they were born: inside they ARE that gender. (To accept this as a parent can be like being tossed up in a tornado, and it takes some big adjustment for many people. To fail to accept your child for who they are inside is a disaster for the child, as depression and anxiety follow when your parents are not approving of your identity. Work to learn all you can about young children and adolescents in this situation, and if you need help, let me know.
4. The same is true for gay kids. When your child expresses an attraction to same-sex persons, acceptance and support is your only path to helping your child achieve mental health and a positive future. 

"How do I "get my child" to clean his room, pick up after herself, help with the dishes or come home at curfew?

1. You may have noticed that "getting your child to ..." hardly ever works, and if it does, there's usually only a temporary fix, and often some retaliation. 
2. By being present in this moment with your child's objection to doing what needs to be done, instead of "getting her to," it's quite possible to "free" her to do it. 
3. Active, reflective listening is the key to freeing your child to cooperate. If you address the underlying emotion associated with the resistance, you're halfway home to collaborating with your child. "You feel like I'm always harping on you to do what needs doing here."  "You hate it when I ask you to take out the trash when you're deep into a movie or video game." "You wish I'd lay off on the condition of your room, because you feel it's your space." "You think curfew is a joke." These reflections are not agreeing with your child, nor are they condoning the behaviors. They are SEEING YOUR CHILD, which is the gateway to cooperation. They calm the threat alarm in the brain and allow the rational part of the brain to engage. These two parts are never active at the same time - it's always threat or rational thinking. Take time to hear the feelings, pause to let it sink in that the child is seen by you, reflect what he or she says next. Pause again. Then, once the child is seen and the rational brain is activated, and only then, can you expect cooperation that builds your relationship. Connect and reflect, before you expect.  

That was a long blog entry!  I hope you can see that the reason I don't care for these words is that they aren't helpful in resolving relationship issues with your child. In coaching, our one goal is to strengthen you and that kid. 

For help with these and other parenting issues, click here. 

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